Global polymeric foams market is estimated to reach 18 mln tons by 2015. Though this market faces subdued demand in recent times, future growth would be favored by manufacturer initiatives such as introduction of classification-free PU foams and emerging applications such as foamed PVC for windows, doors and house siding, and use of cross-linked polyolefin foam in sports and leisure goods, as per Global Industry Analysts, Inc. The market suffered a major setback during 2008 and 2009, following a dip in automotive production, contraction in construction activity, and reduced consumer spending, due to the adverse economic conditions. Several manufacturers, particularly those operating smaller or older units, were forced to close operations permanently, while those with multiple facilities sought to reduce operating rates or overcome the adversities by closing down some units. Resurgence in this market is also expected to stem from emerging demand from Asian economies and the construction industry's renewed focus on sustainable and green construction products. Polymeric foams are ubiquitous in their application as they exhibit exceptional insulating properties, buoyancy, impact-resistant characteristics and outstanding strength-to-weight ratios, among other attributes. Worldwide demand for polymeric foams across majority of the developed countries is forecast to remain weak in near future as the industry continues to be beleaguered with rise in feedstock prices and slow growth in replenished demand from major end-use markets. Polyurethane foam, produced either in rigid or flexible form, constitutes the largest segment in the global polymeric foams market, while Polyolefin Foams represents the fastest growing segment. Demand for polyolefin foams is driven by increasing the use of cross-linked polyethylene in applications such as sports and leisure goods. Potential opportunities for polyurethane foams stem from sustained demand for spray polyurethane foam in industrial and residential applications. The market is also expected to witness gain in the Do-It-Yourself sector, as people make use of the available free time to renovate and do repairs to their homes. The need to comply with new regulatory specifications and secure certification is also creating growth opportunities for manufacturers. With EU targeting a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by about 20-30% by 2020, the region is likely to shift focus onto efficient homes, appliances and vehicles, in which polyurethanes have a critical role to play. Demand for polyolefin foams is driven primarily by increasing the use of cross-linked polyethylene in applications such as sports and leisure goods. Flexible foams are used primarily for cushioning while rigid foams find widespread use in thermal insulation. However, growth would be tempered due to environmental concerns regarding use of PVC.
Between rigid and flexible variants, rigid foams segment is expected to witness faster growth through 2013. In developing regions, there exists significant potential for plastics as a replacement for traditional materials. Traditional material substitution as well as inter-polymer competition is expected to intensify as a result of introduction of polymers tailored with new catalysts and developments in alloying, blending and compounding. Further manufacturer efforts towards development of products that comply with the existing and restrictive chemical laws are expected to drive the future demand for Polyurethane foams.
Asia-Pacific represents the largest and fastest growing regional market. Developing regions of Asia-Pacific and Latin America are expected to post relatively higher growth across the world. Asian, East European, and Latin American regions are witnessing a period of privatization of many industries, including plastics and chemicals. Countries in these regions are attempting to become more competitive in tune with industrialized nations. Consequently, the plastics industry has witnessed cost reduction programs, consolidation efforts and a series of foreign investments. Major players as per GIA, in the marketplace include Abriso N.V., Achilles USA Inc., American Excelsior Company, Armacell LLC, BASF Plastics, Bayer Material Science Polyurethanes, Carpenter Company, Celotex Limited, Evonik Foams, Fagerdala World Foams AB, FXI - Foamex Innovations, Huntsman Corporation, JSP Corporation, Recticel, Rogers Corporation, Sealed Air Corporation, Sekisui Alveo AG, Sonoco Products Company, The Dow Chemical Company, among others.